This is one of the first words that comes to mind for a fan of Nebraska Cornhuskers football. Five National Titles, numerous conference championships, three Heisman winners, and an NCAA leading 304 consecutive sell-outs at home games.
It is no secret though, that Nebraska tradition took a hit in the first decade of the 2000's. Without a conference championship to call their own since 1999, Nebraska slipped through the first ten years of the second millennium without a championship of any kind for the first time since The Sixties.
Not only did Nebraska lose records of being ranked in the top twenty-five for consecutive years but in 2005 they lost their NCAA leading post of most consecutive bowl game appearances.
The tradition was in serious jeopardy.
Exit Bill Callahan, who wiped out at least half of the aforementioned records single handedly as well as eliminating a tradition that Nebraska fans and staff had held in high esteem throughout Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich's tenures at Nebraska.
The walk-on program.
With the elimination of the walk-on program came the destruction of Nebraska tradition as fans previously knew it. No longer could a player like Jared Tomich rocket from anonymity to glory, instead it was on the shoulders of players like Marlon Lucky and Frantz Hardy or even Harrison Beck to bring Nebraska to the national spotlight once again.
Long story short, it didn't happen.
Enter Bo Pelini.
Some might call him the restoration of tradition. He re-implemented the walk-on program which, in its first two seasons under Pelini saw the likes of Matt O'Hanlon and Alex Henery turn into walk-on legends by the end of 2009.
Now, looking at the season to come Nebraska fans hold a cautious optimism in their hands and their hearts.
To quote one of my favorite movies, "There once was a dream called Husker football. You could only whisper it. Anything more and it would vanish...it was so fragile."
That's the state Husker fans find themselves in as they anticipate opening day against Western Kentucky.
Dare we predict an undefeated season and a shot at the national title game for the first time in nearly a decade?
Some fear if we do, we crush the dream that is Nebraska football dominance. There comes a cautious optimism, especially with football fans.
We've seen optimism be crushed before, the 2006 season under Callahan was promising and showed improvement. The next season Nebraska was 5-7 and looking for a new head coach.
In 2003, Nebraska's Frank Solich steered his team to a 9-3 season on the way to an Alamo Bowl victory led by none other than Bo Pelini himself. The next season Nebraska went a paltry 5-6.
Or how about after 2001 when Nebraska somehow made it to the National Title game only to get whacked by Miami 38-14. The next season, Jamaal Lord led the Huskers to a disappointing 7-7 finish with season-breaking loss to Ole Miss.
How do we forget these monumental breakdowns that crushed the heart of every Husker fan from Omaha to Scottsbluff?
We don't forget, we remember.
As Nebraska starts a new decade, they embark on a mission to start new traditions and new expectations.
The loss of Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford leaves a power vacuum in the NCAA, albeit not a large one. The vacuum of power is so slight that any team could seize it before season's end.
The question then becomes, why not Nebraska?
With a wide open Big 12, and a plethora of returning starters as well as a favorable schedule and a revamped offense, Nebraska could jump into that vacuum and leave teams like USC, Oklahoma, and Florida treading water by the end of 2010.
I know it sounds weird and unheralded, but after all, isn't that what Nebraska fans long for the most?
2010 is the start of a new decade, of new opportunities and a better future for Nebraska football. Husker fans, we are die-hard and loyal, educated and ambitious. We know of the fragile state of the current college football landscape, but let us not lose hope or quell our optimism, for it is in this that we are known as Nebraska fans.
I remember a Husker Nation that predicted a national title in 1997 even though doubts at quarterback abounded, let us renew that type of optimism and cheer hard for the Huskers of 2010 because I have a feeling Bo Pelini and crew are on the cusp of something great.
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